Classification and external resources
ICD-10 K65
ICD-9 567
DiseasesDB 9860
eMedicine med/2737
MeSH D010538

Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the serous membrane that lines part of the abdominal cavity and viscera. Peritonitis may be localised or generalised, and may result from infection (often due to rupture of a hollow organ as may occur in abdominal trauma or appendicitis) or from a non-infectious process.


Signs and symptoms

Abdominal pain and tenderness

The main manifestations of peritonitis are acute abdominal pain, abdominal tenderness, and abdominal guarding, which are exacerbated by moving the peritoneum, e.g., coughing (forced cough may be used as a test), flexing one's hips, or eliciting the Blumberg sign (a.k.a. rebound tenderness, meaning that pressing a hand on the abdomen elicits less pain than releasing the hand abruptly, which will aggravate the pain, as the peritoneum snaps back into place). The presence of these signs in a patient is sometimes referred to as peritonism.[1] The localization of these manifestations depends on whether peritonitis is localized (e.g., appendicitis or diverticulitis before perforation), or generalized to the whole abdomen. In either case, pain typically starts as a generalized abdominal pain (with involvement of poorly localizing innervation of the visceral peritoneal layer), and may become localized later (with the involvement of the somatically innervated parietal peritoneal layer). Peritonitis is an example of an acute abdomen.

Collateral manifestations



Infected peritonitis

Non-infected peritonitis


A diagnosis of peritonitis is based primarily on the clinical manifestations described above. If peritonitis is strongly suspected, then surgery is performed without further delay for other investigations. Leukocytosis, hypokalemia, hypernatremia, and acidosis may be present, but they are not specific findings. Abdominal X-rays may reveal dilated, edematous intestines, although such X-rays are mainly useful to look for pneumoperitoneum, an indicator of gastrointestinal perforation. The role of whole-abdomen ultrasound examination is under study and is likely to expand in the future. Computed tomography (CT or CAT scanning) may be useful in differentiating causes of abdominal pain. If reasonable doubt still persists, an exploratory peritoneal lavage or laparoscopy may be performed. In patients with ascites, a diagnosis of peritonitis is made via paracentesis (abdominal tap): More than 250 polymorphonucleate cells per μL is considered diagnostic. In addition, Gram stain and culture of the peritoneal fluid can determine the microorganism responsible and determine their sensibility to antimicrobial agents.


In normal conditions, the peritoneum appears greyish and glistening; it becomes dull 2–4 hours after the onset of peritonitis, initially with scarce serous or slightly turbid fluid. Later on, the exudate becomes creamy and evidently suppurative; in dehydrated patients, it also becomes very inspissated. The quantity of accumulated exudate varies widely. It may be spread to the whole peritoneum, or be walled off by the omentum and viscera. Inflammation features infiltration by neutrophils with fibrino-purulent exudation.


Depending on the severity of the patient's state, the management of peritonitis may include:

  • General supportive measures such as vigorous intravenous rehydration and correction of electrolyte disturbances.
  • Antibiotics are usually administered intravenously, but they may also be infused directly into the peritoneum. The empiric choice of broad-spectrum antibiotics often consist of multiple drugs, and should be targeted against the most likely agents, depending on the cause of peritonitis (see above); once one or more agents are actually isolated, therapy will of course be targeted on them.
  • Surgery (laparotomy) is needed to perform a full exploration and lavage of the peritoneum, as well as to correct any gross anatomical damage that may have caused peritonitis.[2] The exception is spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, which does not always benefit from surgery and may be treated with antibiotics in the first instance.


If properly treated, typical cases of surgically correctable peritonitis (e.g., perforated peptic ulcer, appendicitis, and diverticulitis) have a mortality rate of about <10% in otherwise healthy patients, which rises to about 40% in the elderly, and/or in those with significant underlying illness, as well as in cases that present late (after 48 hours). If untreated, generalised peritonitis is almost always fatal.


  1. ^ "Biology Online's definition of peritonism". Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  2. ^ "Peritonitis: Emergencies: Merck Manual Home Edition". Retrieved 2007-11-25. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Peritonitis — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda La peritonitis es la inflamación aguda o crónica del peritoneo, la membrana serosa que recubre parte de la cavidad abdominal y las visceras allí contenidas. Esta inflamación puede ser localizada o generalizada y… …   Wikipedia Español

  • peritonitis — f. gastrol. Inflamación aguda o crónica del peritoneo que puede estar localizada alrededor de un órgano o ser de carácter generalizado. Medical Dictionary. 2011. peritonitis …   Diccionario médico

  • peritonitis — (plural peritonitis) sustantivo femenino 1. (no contable) Área: medicina Inflamación del peritoneo: César fue operado de peritonitis …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • Peritonitis — Per i*to*ni tis, n. [NL. See {Peritoneum}, and { itis}.] (Med.) Inflammation of the peritoneum. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Peritonītis — (griech.), s. Bauchfellentzündung …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • peritonitis — 1776, from Mod.L., from Gk. peritonos, from peritonaion (see PERITONEUM (Cf. peritoneum)) + ITIS (Cf. itis) …   Etymology dictionary

  • peritonitis — peritonìtis m DEFINICIJA pat. upala potrbušnice, ozbiljno i teško oboljenje ETIMOLOGIJA v. peritoneum + itis …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • peritonitis — (De peritoneo e itis). f. Med. Inflamación del peritoneo …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • peritonitis — ► NOUN ▪ inflammation of the peritoneum …   English terms dictionary

  • peritonitis — [per΄ə tə nīt′is] n. [see ITIS] inflammation of the peritoneum …   English World dictionary

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